I watched how Louisa and Dean threw their phones in the fire. The people all clapped in delight. They then kissed, and said it would be forever.
Two months later, while having a drink with Dean, he seemed much more relaxed.
'It feels like I was walking on hot coals all my life, and now, finally, I've found land.'
'Must be great. I hope it lasts mate. I'm still on the clock.'
I see Ella has sent me a message. If I'm on my way.
When I open the door I smell her lingering perfume in the hallway. The echoes of her voice dance all over the ceiling. She's singing a song I know very well but never can remember the words to.
In the kitchen, she's making dinner. While she's been home all day she's fully dressed, as if we were to go out to a fancy party.
'Hello. Your mum called,' she says.
I pull up my phone, and see a few notifications.
Two new matches, might check them out later if there's more bad news.
'Nope. I really like the painting you're making.'
'It's not finished, but thank you.'
I put my phone away, and give her the roses I've bought for her. She smells like summer and autumn in one. A strange combination of flowers and death. Not in a horrible way, it's rather that you know you can never forget that smell. If it will ever leave you, you know it will tear you apart. Her scent is deadly.
I feel tired, so the romancing later is rather quick. I try to fall asleep after, but the light of her phone keeps me up. When Ella goes to the toilet, I quickly check it. Nineteen new matches. Is she becoming bored with me? I check the ones I have on my own phone, and compare them to my girlfriend. Do they seem nicer? Do we have more hobbies in common? When Ella crawls back into bed and puts her head on my chest, I log out. Nobody's better. Not at this very moment.
Over breakfast I see Ella swipe. I try to ignore it. When she kisses me and goes to work, I grab my phone. Likes smoking. Nope. Likes reading and swimming. Maybe, but when do I swim? While watching a lame reality TV show Ella left on, I finish my third morning coffee. I notice it's already 11 o'clock. I've been swiping for an hour. I think about Dean, and how I resent him for finally getting to that point. The game we all play is terrible. I hate Ella and myself for doing it also, but there's no other way. It has taken everything over. People don't dare to show their true selves anymore easily, because there is always a next best thing. We constantly try to make each other aware of that, and keep the other in check that way. It's despicable and I'm aware of it. It's not just us, it's everybody. We all chase the newest version, the most updated one. Dating isn't slow anymore. It's about finding the most perfectly shaped puzzle piece, as soon as possible.
When I forgot her sister's birthday, Ella had a date for it within 10 minutes. 'You forgot, and we're not very serious yet, so I just thought I'd bring someone else I matched with.' Her argument made sense, and frankly, I'd done something similar to her a week before. When she was stuck in traffic and couldn't make it to dinner; it only took me fifteen minutes to find someone else to accompany me at the table. Even though I missed Ella, the girl was very nice, and I enjoyed meeting her. We meet so many people these days. Everybody is always meeting a match somewhere. People aren't very lonely anymore in the sense that they don't go out and never meet people. They're lonely because they share connections with so many. In a crowd of people, one can still feel lonely.
Does Ella feel lonely too? She dropped hints she wanted to be more serious, but she still swipes everyday, just like me. Do I want to be serious with her, if today alone I've already swiped for 2 hours? Mila is nice. Mandy and Sue are lovely. Christel and I have the same taste in films. Could I have a better life with them?
She's carrying two bags when she gets home, and Chinese food.
'You shouldn't do that,'
'Oh come on,' she laughs. 'I'm only 6 months along.'
I stroke her stomach, the save haven my son is sleeping in. Or not. I feel him kick.
'Look, your mother gave it to me', she says.
She takes out a fluffy toy. It's a phone.
'Great,' I say. 'He'll grow up in the same world we live in.'
Ella looks at me. I smell death. A lovely death. A brutal death. Something I will never sense again if I swipe her away. Her eyes are mahogany but the twinkles inside them never seem to fade in the darkness. She's thirty years old but I've swiped away over 400 younger women than her this week alone, who could never compete with her. I saw she only swiped 10 times this week. I feel my chest get tight.
'I want to, ehm.'
'What?' she says.
'I want to throw this away.'
'The toy or the real thing?'
'The real thing.'
'Oh,' she replies.
Ella walks away and unpacks the groceries.
'Actually, I have a date later.'
She's upset. She must have seen I swiped that many times. Why did I swipe that many times? I know it shows up on my profile. What the fuck was I thinking. I don't want to meet all these countless strangers, who never will find the perfect spot on my chest. Or when they finally do, find out they have a new date the next morning. I want Ella. I want this.
'I'm still throwing it away.'
She turns around, looks at me, takes off her dress, and walks in her lingerie towards me.
'Good. Because I already threw it away last night.'
She walks towards the fluffy toy, takes a lighter from near the stove, and sets the toy on fire.
'For you, and our son.'